Stur­geon pledges re­view over app se­cu­rity fears

Warn­ing tool could be in­fil­trated by in­di­vid­u­als look­ing to lo­cate chil­dren

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - DEREK HEALEY dhealey@the­courier.co.uk

Ni­cola Stur­geon has pledged a “proper re­view” af­ter The Courier re­vealed how a so­cial net­work­ing tool was rolled out to Scot­tish schools de­spite con­cerns over its vul­ner­a­bil­ity to preda­tors.

The first min­is­ter de­scribed as a “se­ri­ous is­sue” the fact Ed­u­ca­tion Scot­land bosses signed off on the ser­vice de­spite their own im­pact assess­ment warn­ing it could be in­fil­trated by in­di­vid­u­als look­ing to lo­cate chil­dren and “do them harm”.

It has emerged school teach­ers had been at­tempt­ing to raise con­cerns over the platform for 18 months but the first min­is­ter said she only learned of the is­sue on Thurs­day af­ter a wor­ried par­ent emailed her di­rectly.

Ms Stur­geon was chal­lenged on the is­sue at First Min­is­ters Ques­tions by Mid Scot­land and Fife Con­ser­va­tive MSP Alexan­der Ste­wart, who asked why warn­ings were “not lis­tened to, who is re­spon­si­ble and how are we go­ing to en­sure in­di­vid­u­als are ac­count­able”?

Ms Stur­geon said she sup­ported the steps Ed­u­ca­tion Scot­land was tak­ing, adding: “In terms of the over­sight of this and the re­view, Ed­u­ca­tion Scot­land is re­spon­si­ble.

“As I un­der­stand it, the lev­els of ac­cess to Glow and to Yam­mer are de­cided at a lo­cal au­thor­ity level.

“But the site has been taken down and it’s right that ac­tion has been taken be­cause we must act on a pre­cau­tion­ary ba­sis when the safety of chil­dren is con­cerned.”

She added: “This is a se­ri­ous is­sue and no­body in the gov­ern­ment or Ed­u­ca­tion Scot­land is try­ing to un­der­play it but it is im­por­tant that a proper re­view takes place.”

The Yam­mer app al­lows school pupils and teach­ers across the coun­try to con­tact and pri­vate mes­sage one another and it is un­der­stood ed­u­ca­tors had been urged to en­cour­age use of the tool at home.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by The Courier re­vealed how chil­dren on the sys­tem had al­ready been ex­posed to con­ver­sa­tions about drugs and al­co­hol, graphic hor­ror images and mes­sages from an in­di­vid­ual with pae­dophile in their user­name.

Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary John Swin­ney said on Tues­day that in­di­vid­ual was an older pupil pos­ing as a pae­dophile, who had now been re­moved from the sys­tem.

Ms Stur­geon said the gov­ern­ment had “no in­di­ca­tion” based on the ev­i­dence it has that vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren had been tar­geted through the app. She added: “It is crit­i­cal that of­fen­sive ma­te­rial is re­ported and re­moved as soon as it is iden­ti­fied.”

Andy Bur­rows, an on­line child safety ex­pert with the NSPCC, said it was “re­ally con­cern­ing” that Ed­u­ca­tion Scot­land had de­liv­ered a ser­vice with­out “child safe­guard­ing prin­ci­pals front and cen­tre”.

Bosses pulled the plug on ac­cess to the ser­vice on Fri­day af­ter The Courier ap­proached them for com­ment.

It has not yet come back on­line and it is un­der­stood Ed­u­ca­tion Scot­land have met par­ents to dis­cuss their con­cerns.

Pic­ture: PA.

Ni­cola Stur­geon dur­ing First Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions at Holy­rood.

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